Monday, December 21, 2009

SKIM graphic novel

Occasionally I'll find a work that I was unaware of and the revelation of the treasure
is quite intoxicating. Imagine my surprise when the local BFE country library debuted
the SKIM graphic novel!
The cover caught my eye, with the lead character's angst-ridden face so delicately portrayed.
I flipped through just for curiosity's sake. The artwork was gorgeous and textured, drawing me into the characters. There's a fluidity to the figures that is simply beautiful.
Then, I read a panel at random. I was hooked!
SKIM is the story of a high school girl who attends an all-girl prep school. It's filled with all sorts
of emotion revolving around a suicide and its impact on the student body. There's also coping with being in a one-parent household, discovering a first love, questioning religious identity, grief of fading friendships, and so much more. In other words, it's a story that all ages can relate to.
The specific setting for the story seems to be around 1993, and there are some fun references thrown in to set the stage. This is a story for people who don't quite fit in, and aren't worried about it. It's one of the most remarkable stories I've read in any format, and the marriage of words and pictures is flawless for the writer and artist to be different people.
Mariko Tamaki provides the story and Jillian Tamaki sets down the illustrations.
The work is sparse, in both departments, condensing all the vitals into a deceptively
simplistic loaded tapestry. There is a truth in the work that is breath-taking, and I
was enthralled with wanting to find out the outcome of Kim's various plights.
I love a good story where a normal person can be depicted, warts and all, and still come out okay. Writers these days have lost sight of how to be genuine and fearless, opting instead for sensationalistic and predictable. For anyone you know who appreciates a great ride, and anyone who has ever been proud to know their own voice, I heartily recommend this book!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Looking Good: Women of the DC Universe

Gorgeous work, from Adam Hughes.

This is why I still love comics!

Looking Good: Catwoman

Brian Bolland can do no wrong, so...

Awesome rendition of the 'Nine Lives' (or costumes/incarnations) of the Cat. This was done as a cover for a Catwoman Trade paperback.

I love how it's cheesecake but still fierce!

Looking Good: Justice League of America

The JLA's 'Satellite Era' was for me--like many old timers--their 'best' stories.
I love this line-up for many reasons, as this was the period when all of the family dynamics between all the various members were established. (Steve Englehart and Gerry Conway in particular did phenomenal work.)
This piece was done by the incomparable Alex Ross for a cover/poster for Wizard Magazine, if I recall correctly. Beautiful stuff. The muted colors, the personalities displayed, the familiarity, and of course, Hal Jordan's enormous tool box!
This pic encapsulates every good memory of that extraordinary time in comics. Enjoy!

Looking Good: Teen Titans

I've always been a devoted Teen Titans fan (at least up until the late 1980's,
and only very sporadically since.) But I am definitely old school.
This piece, originally commissioned by a fan by Titans artist extraordinaire,
George Perez, eventually saw print in the back of NEW TEEN TITANS
(Baxter.) Thank Christ 'Cousin Oliver' (Danny Chase--double Ugh!) was
not included.
And Goddess bless George--and the fan--for doing Duela justice and including her!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Current Faves!

SECRET SIX (Volume 3) #s 1-16

Gail Simone is a tremendous writer who does great characterization and build-up with her storylines--two things sorely lacking in a splash-page crazy deconstructed-story world. She has perfect pitch and timing, and has a knack for providing great reveals and surprises. (No shock she's a fan of John Ostrander!)

With her team book, Secret Six, she has a vast universe of nastiness and despair at her disposal, and it's good dirty fun. Backstabbing, killing, deal-making; all the terribleness of a soap opera without a pesky reset button or a glamorous last act reversal.

Nicola Scott provides excellent art for such a dark series; and her men are absolutely delectable. I always did love a bad boy, but DAMN! Bane, Cat-Man, and Deadshot are all drool worthy in every panel.

If you're a fan of great stories, dark humor, sexiness, and lots of cool cameos and geek-bits, you'll love this book!

(and counting)
You always worry with a high profile book that the reality won't match the expectation, but this book has more than delivered.

Although I'm always happy for a little visibility for the Sisters of Sappho, I worry about depictions being gratuitous or sappy. No worries there; Rucka and Williams do a great job of keeping Batwoman a Dyke-To-Watch-Out-For without her sexuality running the show. We get to see her drag it up at a ball with Maggie Sawyer, we're treated to a date from hell, and of course her ex is in the back-up feature (The Question.) But the intensity of the Kate character, her troubled past and her broken family are the real focus.

This book is all action and intrigue, with the mystery only just beginning to unravel some 5 issues in. Williams art is beyond phenomenal (the word is not overused here) and I can sit and scan the gorgeous pages for an hour after reading. J.H. Williams III is doing pencil, ink, and coloring work on the series. (His "PROMETHEA" with Alan Moore was easily one of the best artistic works of all time.)

Regardless of your feelings about the absence of The Bat, this book is well worth your time and money; let go of any preconceptions you may have had about the character or the hype. Good stuff can be popular, too!
(and counting)
When Christos Gage (Chris Gage, Christian Gage, whatever name he's using this week) came on as co-writer for Initiative, I was a bit concerned. It was in my top two books every month, and Chris Gage's history was a bit sporadic for my tastes. He had started off incredibly with "DEADSHOT" at DC, and his "IRON MAN/CAPTAIN AMERICA: CASUALTIES OF WAR" Special was phenomenal. But then he had put out a lot of stuff that, frankly, I found mediocre and flavorless. So I was quite trepidatious.

Doubts be damned! This is still a butt-whooper month after month, and Gage has made it his own after Slott's departure. Inventive, insightful, far-reaching, action-packed, gripping, and well planned. The changing art is cool since it's almost an anthology book with the constantly changing perspectives and storylines, so that works out as well.

I love getting to see the underpinnings of the larger universe. This book provides a pulse of the Marvel Universe on whole through a large cast of diverse characters getting some spotlight. And as is typically the case, when you utilize the folks that don't have a huge following, there's a lot of leeway for what can be done.

This is the place to see the big picture unfold. See relationships grow and change, fave characters come into their own. This one has it all.
EX MACHINA # 1-45 (and counting)
Brian K. Vaughan has become hands-down the best new comics writer of the last decade.
Yes, fan boys; FUCK GEOFF JOHNS! This here is the grown folks real deal.

He can write any style story so deftly that you forget you're reading fiction. It's inspirational how easy he makes tying all the chords together. (Damn him!)

My current fave of his is EX MACHINA, a Wildstorm/DC ongoing about Mayor Hundred of New York City; a super hot, super savvy metro-sexual (there's an ongoing controversy right there!) with a remarkably complex cast and a superb mixing of politics, history, sociology, and science fiction. And Tony Harris' art is stupendous. In addition to his lush, incredible designs and layout, he has succeeded in making two fictional 4-color characters top the real world 'Hottest Bachelors' list (Hundred and Bradbury, baby!)

The complete series thus far is available in affordable trades (see below) and Vaughan's previous work includes the equally worthy "Y: THE LAST MAN", "PRIDE OF BAGHDAD", "RUNAWAYS", and some powerful good stories in Marvel's "4-1-1" and Dark Horse's "Buffy."

I bought a few issues of "THE MIGHT AVENGERS" in the beginning because Deodato's Ares was slobberific good eye candy. But now that Master Man Dan Slott has taken over (along with some amazing pencil work by Khoi Pham, the book is hyper-addictive. It is seriously a title I re-read the minute I finish just to be sure it was as incredible as I though it was, and then find myself wincing in realization that I have to wait 30 more days for another fix.

(and counting)
Slott has been around for quite a while; he started off writing excellent stories for the 'kiddie comics' such as "Ren & Stimpy," "Batman Adventures," etc. (I calls 'em 'all ages,' but why quibble!) But he has come to prominence with 'mainstream comics fans' in recent years for his splendid blend of story-telling, humor, wit, Easter eggs, and geek history.

His "SPIDER-MAN/HUMAN TORCH" mini-series was pure silk. His two "SHE-HULK" series were perfection. His "THE THING" series, though brief, showed how simple it is to showcase a great character after 40 years of stories. "AVENGERS: INITIATIVE" is one of the best concepts in decades.

Now, with Mighty, he's taken back the real Avengers and shown how it's done. A big 'Thank You' to Mr. Slott for making one of my fave teams readable once more! Great characterization, action, momentum, dialogue, and a reverence for even the 'C' and 'D' list characters. Great stuff.

For ordering any new or back issues, check out the link below for Lone Star Comics, my recommended online dealer!>Buy comic books at

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Best Comics of 1980's; X-MEN: God Loves, Man Kills

The X-Men have become so convoluted and oversaturated that it's sometimes hard to recall that their popularity was at one point much-deserved. At the pinnacle of their reknown in the 1980's, (1982,) one of the men who had sky-rocketed them into the spotlight (Chris Claremont) teamed with artist supreme Brent Anderson (Ka-Zar, Astro City) to deliver "God Loves, Man Kills." (Big shout-out to all the creative team including Oliffe on the colors which really set the tone.) The story was released as "Marvel Graphic Novel # 5."

It was ahead of its time on many fronts. This graphic novel was a very stark and dreary look at super-heroics when such things were not commonplace. It was a bit heavy for a Marvel Comic in general, in an age when there was a pretty intensely followed house style.

Claremont really worked the novel to decry much of what is wrong with mankind, focusing on the specifics of those joint beasts, religion and politics. He delineated the previously subtle allegorical aspects of mutant kind with the real world counterparts of race, sexuality, and other 'differences.' There was no mistaking the fear and hatred that these comic book heroes would now face.

Utilizing Magneto, the modern atrocities were even linked back to the Holocaust. (Claremont has always brought the religion of Magnus and Pryde into the forefront, as well as plainly depicted how all prejudice is connected.) This story was innovative on many fronts; advancing the mainstream comics storytelling expectation, propelling the X-Men into an expanded universe--and setting up much of today's stories, and bringing a new level of 'relevancy' to Marvel Comics in particular.

This story was also used as the springboard for the second live-action X-Men film, X-2, wherein Springer took the allegorical nature of societal contempt for mutants and masterfully executed a powerful film.

The original album is available, as well as many reprint editions. It was also re-released as a smaller bookshelf edition. Worth the hunt, worth the read, and still maintains its standing as one of the best comics ever done--certainly one of the best of the 1980's.

To find and buy this issue, my recommendation for online sales is;>Buy comic books at